Friday, April 16, 2010

San Francisco International Film Festival 53 (SFIFF53) - Selected Previews

The 53rd San Francisco International Film Festival screens April 22–May 6 at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, the historic Castro Theatre, the Landmark Clay and the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley. For tickets and information, go to or call 925-866-9559.

Unlike the previous couple of years, I have decided to "live blog" the San Francisco International Film Festival, instead of taking advantage of the abundance of preview screenings and screeners. However, there were a couple exceptions that were MUST SEES for me that I jumped at!

MY DOG TULIP (dirs. Paul Fierlinger, Sandra Fierlinger, USA, 2009, 82 minutes) is an engaging and thoroughly adult animated feature adaption of J.R. Ackerley's memoir regarding himself and his "Alsatian bitch" which becomes the love of his life. It is an acerbic and dry narrative, brilliantly voiced by Christopher Plummer, with supporting vocal work from Lynn Redgrave, Isabella Rossellini, Euan Morton, Brian Murray and Peter Gerety and Paul Hecht, filling out the cast. For a taste of the "poetry" involved, I encourage you to open it's homepage:, where you get a sample of one of the 'hymns' Ackerly composed to Tulip. Yes, he does spend an inordinate amount of energy dwelling on the biological functions of Tulip. In fact, the film does sort of get slogged down a bit during a sequence in which he seems desperate to have her meet a mate. However, if the film is placed in the context of how Tulip becomes his surrogate partner, and how he begins to live vicariously through her, particularly her sex life, then it could be more engaging. Regardless of the meanderings of the memoir itself, the visuals are fascinatingly rendered as water colors and sketchings, though wholly paperless and computerized. The Fierlingers have developed a technique in which they maintain the personality of hand drawing and painting, yet are able to take advantage of a technology that made a feature length "water color" animation possible. Comparatively primitive in look to the current PIXAR CGI trends, the hand-crafting of this story lends a more personalized depth to the visualization of Ackerley's writing.

The film is screening no less than four times at the festival: April 24, 25, 27 at the Sundance Kabuki and Saturday, May 1st, at the Pacific Film Archive. So there are no excuses for missing it!

The second film that I found intriguing in previews was THE WHITE MEADOWS (dir. Mohammad Rasoulof, Iran, 2009, 93 minutes) (no official site available). Described as "a timeless, unforgettable fable in the tradition of Swift or Kafka", I was unable to resist a chance to catch it quickly! Though it is visually arresting, set in a suitably surreal backdrop of one of the world's largest salt lake beds, I did find the allegories in the episodic adventures of a man who collects human tears, going over my head. As intriguing as I found watching it, I was still left puzzled as to what it wanted to say, much less the fact that it is the work of director, Mohammad Rasoulof, who has not been allowed to leave the country for its screenings. So, as hypnotized as I may have been visually, intellectually, I was left somewhat confused, if not a bit bored. It screens three times: April 23, 24 at the Kabuki and April 25 at the PFA.

Maxxxxx says
re MY DOG TULIP: "Belle! Belle! Such a good girl!"
re THE WHITE MEADOWS: "Is it bedtime?"

You can contact Maxxxxx or myself here: JayCBird@AOL.COM

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